Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) hiked the OPR by 25bps to 3% on 5 May as what some analysts said "Surprising". The OPR hike was a pre-emptive strike on inflation pressures as the output gap closes. Many analysts are expecting hikes to resume only in July as inflation remains largely supply side driven. However, BNM seems to act before demand pull pressures dominate and before the output gap turns positive. In our view, the OPR and SRR hike is indicating two things here.
Inflation is going to threaten the Malaysian economy in the near-term (at least). Recent increase in prices of petrol and sugar will further accelerate the numbers. With ongoing efforts by Government to reduce the subsidies, inflation numbers for sure will gone up.
|Citi Research: Regional Policy Rates as at 10th May 2011|
Related to inflation also, BNM is trying to reduce the increasing food and resources prices. If we can reduce the import price, by having a stronger currency, this would be a wise move. So, BNM is trying hard to cramp down our money spent on these import items. Not by reducing the quantity of imports, Malaysia are buying at a cheaper price. How to that? Of course, by raising the OPR rates, which will lead to a stronger currency RM.
|Citi: Regional Currency Performances as at 10th May 2011|
Maybe, BNM foresees that Malaysia economy is going to face some real challenges (Asian financial crisis?). If the situation really turns bad in a year or two, how are we going to reduce the rate to spur economy given the current low rates? We must have room for BNM to decrease the rate by that time. That's why BNM so pro-active now?